Unveiling the Yemen Chameleon: One of the Most Popular Chameleon Pets
Due to their large size and dynamic coloration, veiled chameleons can be impressive pets for owners who take time to learn about what makes them unique. Here are some key facts to know about veiled chameleons.
Veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) are native to the coastal plains, mountains and high deserts of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The prominent casque, or veil, on top of their heads is just one of the many ways these lizards have evolved to survive in such a harsh climate. During the cool, moist nights, dew collects on their crests, and the accumulated moisture gets channeled down toward their mouths.
Like many other chameleon species, veiled chameleons – also called Yemen chameleons – are arboreal by nature. In fact, this cunning chameleon species has several distinct adaptations to help it thrive in its leafy home. The veiled chameleon has a flatter body than many other chameleon species, which helps it hide from birds and other predators in its natural habitat. In addition to their flatter body, their tong-shaped feet and sharp claws help veiled chameleons keep a strong grip on tree limbs.
Size, Coloration and Breeding
Veiled chameleons are one of the largest mainland chameleons in the world. In this species, there is a distinct size difference between adult males and females. From the mouth to the tip of the tail, females rarely exceed a foot in length, while males may attain lengths approaching two feet!
At rest, both male and female veiled chameleons’ bodies are primarily green, which helps camouflage them among the trees where they live. As an ambush predator, veiled chameleons lie in wait for their prey and strike at the last possible moment, so the green coloration also helps them capture food.
Like all chameleons, veiled chameleons can change color to communicate their moods or to regulate their body temperature. Male veileds are brighter and more colorful, with striking pigmentations. They display stripes and spots of tan, orange, white, brown, blue, turquoise and sometimes yellow on the green base. Juveniles and females are normally uniformly green, with some white spots. However, a female who is receptive to breeding or is carrying a clutch of eggs will be very dark green with yellow and blue spots.
Chameleons are generally quick to mature and reproduce, both in the wild and in captivity. In the animal kingdom, a quicker breeding cycle normally correlates with a shorter average life span. Sadly, even the healthiest veiled chameleon rarely lives longer than seven years.
Keeping a Pet Veiled Chameleon
“Do chameleons make good pets?” We hear that question almost every day. As with any type of pet, chameleons can be a good addition to your household if you’re prepared to make the commitment to properly caring for their health and well-being.
Chameleons have specific needs related to their habitat, temperature, diet and humidity levels that make them a bit more high-maintenance than the average dog, cat or hamster; however, veiled chameleons are a popular species to keep in captivity because they can be relatively easier to care for than other types of chameleon. Read our tips on the most important things to know before bringing home a chameleon.